Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

55 – the magic death number

Cigarette advertising is back in Germany. Two campaigns – Winston and now Camel – have something in common, the number 55. It is the number of death sticks that can be squeezed into a packet that is just short of the size of a brick. The two brands also have their brand management by Japan Tobacco in common. Let’s see if 55 catches on.

They’ll do anything for a deal with the USA

Today I wrote to my new MP, Sally-Ann Hart, for the first time. The Conservative Party manifesto for the 2019 election stated:

“In all of our trade negotiations, we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards.”

And yet, the Government is pushing a new agriculture bill through the parliament that offers no such commitment. In order to rectify that, one of her Conservative Party colleagues, Neil Parish, proposed an amendment to the bill that would honour that manifesto commitment. The amendment tabled on 13 May 2020 was defeated (22 Conservatives did vote for it, but Sally-Ann Hart was not one of them).

The reason is clear. There is no hope of a trade deal with the USA if existing standards are maintained. So, Conservative MPs are prepared to sacrifice the livelihoods of farmers (who will not be able to compete against US farmers, especially those on marginal land), environmental targets, including greenhouse gas emissions and the health of their constituents who will finally be able to enjoy chlorinated chicken, hormone-fed beef and pork, and eggs produced in battery cages.

Full story here and farmers’ reaction here including a list of the 22 Conservatives who voted for the amendment.

Built-in obsolescence

Here’s my Russel Hobbs iron (left). The cable is wearing and exposing the live wires within. The fix should be to rewire it. But it is well-and-truly sealed. No way in. I know they would say it is a safety feature, but I cannot even take it to an electrician to fix it. It is, essentially, waste.

 

Lucky Strike stories in six words…everywhere

There are more of these on the streets of Germany than I could be bothered to get off my bicycle and photograph. Shocking blitzing of city streets with advertising for deadly products.

The first one(left) is something to do with travel: “Spinning world. Finger out. Case pack”.

The second (right) – forgive me here  for the bad picture, but it has been sunny in Germany- the nuance here  is a bit too much for me  – “Ask. After the bill. And number”.Hmmm!

Third (left) “Chance opportunity. And grab. No regrets”. Death.

December in Seville – Museo de Belles Artes

Take your passport for free entry into this wonderful example of a city gallery celebrating the work of its sons, if not artist daughters.

There is a lot of extraordinary medaeval – largely religious – art here. 

Smoking in Europe

I have not written much in recent weeks. Way too many other people writing far more interesting things than me about important issues.

I add the following as a placeholder for a later entry.

Theresa May’s letter to the nation

I’ve never received a letter from the Prime Minister before. So, I could hardly contain my anticipation when it arrived in my Twitter feed this morning. I should have known better. I honestly read it aghast. OK, I have not read the 500 pages of the withdrawal agreement. I have left that to others, such as Tory MP, Grant Shapps. But I have read a lot about it from those who  have and, who, I trust.

As I went through the letter, I was waiting for the first truth to emerge, but I was disappointed. There were no truths. Even the Brexiters, like Dominic Raab, are coming clean and saying that this withdrawal agreement is poor in comparison to the only remaining option; i.e. remaining. But the PM borrowed again from Trump: put sugar on it to make is seem appetizing.

The best critique/demolition job that I have found is here: Steve Bullock.

Thinking about options, try Jon Worth’s Euroblog

 

 

 

 

Vienna’s washrooms

So there we are looking for breakfast. We end up at Schwedenplatz. We cross the Donau Kanal using the Schwedenbrücke and stumble into Spelunke on Taborstraße. It is one of those cafés that doubles as a nightclub. Versatile. But as we have found over the years, the proof is in the toilet, and Spelunke is special. The breakfast was ok, too.

So, the first challenge is to get in. Because one does not expect to find instructions on the floor, the tantalising glass door just refuses to open. It takes a couple of helpful women to point out the floor sensor (above left).

Once in, there’s more going on. Now I did not go into the women’s toilet, but my partner came out with a couple of interesting shots from inside a cubicle where the portal window has a couple of surprises (left and right).

And just in case you cannot find the loo roll, it is illuminated.

So the next day, we are after breakfast again. We concede Stadtcafé adjacent to Freyung, a rather central location. The café is pretty regular. The porridge was good. Then in the toilet one finds another mysterious piece of equipment, albeit designed by Dyson (right). These three-in-one contraptions never seem satisfactory and always challenge. The wash basin itself is a bit of a mystery. It is more of a drainage channel.

As a design idea, this borrows directly, I think, from the old ghastly Wallgate three-in-ones that seemed very popular with English public authorities either building or refurbishing their public conveniences (left).

Wallgate picture by Retroscania (Flickr) from Dudley bus station

JPS identity crisis

John Player Special is trying to knock us over with its striking new campaign, Make your Day. There’s a lot of red. It is supposed to “fit in”, as the strapline indicates. Because it is compact! What is a compact cigarette? More tobacco? If so, the bit they do have to put on the poster “Rauchen ist tödlich” is as fitting as ever. Deadly.

I passed an examination!

Since getting back from holidays in the Alps in August, it has been quite busy. The start of an academic year is always busy; this year had its own challenges. And they are persistent. Apologies to my readers. Something had to give.

I have, however, now passed my Goethe Institut B1 German exam. It was quite an experience. I have not taken a formal examination for maybe 20 years (since completing my undergraduate degree). So, I had to prepare. The Goethe Institut offers plenty of mock examination materials for that purpose. I have spent the best part of a year trying to improve my mock scores. Examinations are as much about technique as they are content. Answering the question helps – though because the questions and/or instructions are in German, that makes it a shade more tricky to get right. I practised hard answering questions alone and with my tutor.

Kaffee und Kuchen nach der Prüfung

I have to say that I thought – confidently – that I had failed the listening part of the examination. In my training, this was my weakest discipline. One has to listen to a cod radio-discussion programme and identify who said what. There is little concession to speed. Some of the voices seem similar and, as was in my case, in the first instance, I had no idea what the theme was! But somehow, I passed that part with a creditable 77 (84 overall from four disciplines).

Anyone is doing this examination in Munich, be advised that the online “pass checker” tool may not work. After two weeks the Institut wrote to me to ask when I was going to pick up my certificate! And against their own guidelines, they sent it to an address in Munich for me to retrieve rather than have to attend in person. At 200 Euros, it is not a cheap option. But I am unexpectedly proud.